Microcredit and combatting over-indebtedness

The new and improved Emmaus Ethical Fund grants its first loan!

The new and improved Emmaus Ethical Fund grants its first loan!

The Emmaus Ethical Fund is supporting the microcredit programme run by Emmaus Pahou in Benin, Africa, making this group the first to receive a loan and access credit since this global mutual fund was developed.

By revitalising the Emmaus Ethical Fund at the end of 2018, Emmaus International has reaffirmed the importance of making the Movement’s very own alternative, ethical and solidarity finance tools available, along with the will to defend economic models which enable everyone to find their place in living from their work. This fund is offering a concrete response to groups who do not have access to bank credit due to their economic vulnerability. The loans granted by the Emmaus Ethical Fund are aimed at creating or developing enterprises and solidarity, social and citizen-based economic activities, seeking self-sufficiency and the capacity building of the most excluded.

Emmaus Pahou, located in Benin, applied for a loan from the Emmaus Ethical Fund to support the development of its pre-existing microcredit scheme. Thanks to this loan, it hopes to double the number of beneficiaries (currently some 710) and to have its activity recognised by the Beninese State. For many years, the group’s microcredit programme has been supporting groups of disadvantaged women to develop income generating activities, such as craftwork, sewing, hairdressing, fishing and also raising livestock.

Patrick Atohoun, leader of the Emmaus Pahou group, reminds us of the needs identified by his group and the profile of the women they support: “We work with disadvantaged women who, due to not having the pieces of identity required to gain access to financial institutions, have not found solutions other than turning to loan sharks. Some of them have also been victims of government policies to improve housing and living conditions which, in a bid to drive poverty off the streets, have forced them to abandon their workplaces, stalls and goods. With nobody else to turn to, these women came to us to tell us about their situations.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of similarities in these women’s profiles. Most of them are on their own: widows, or those who have become head of the family not by choice, but because they were abandoned by their husband or even victims of polygamy. These women, like most of the women in Benin, are illiterate. For all of these reasons, Emmaus Pahou decided to embark on this adventure with them, to place our trust in them and work together so that they can provide for their families. We try our best to support them in gaining this status, but we also enable them to access their fundamental rights.

The microcredit programme has been in the experimental phase for around ten years, but the activity was fully formalised and expanded at the start of 2017. Today, 5 people work as part of the microcredit team: a manager in charge of coordinating activities, an assistant manager, two loan officers and a cashier.

© Didier Gentilhomme